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The thrill and agony

David Epps's picture

Years ago, ABC’s Wide World of Sports advertised its programs presenting the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” But what about when the thrill of victory comes and, having done nothing wrong — in fact, having done everything right — the agony of defeat comes anyway?

A short time ago, a team from Peachtree City won the Little League state championship for the first time in history and was slated to begin play in the Southeastern Regional Championships that were to be televised on ESPN.

In the tournament that led to the state title, the Peachtree City team defeated Newton County 16-6, Cartersville 12-0, Northern of Columbus 21-17 and, after defeating Warner Robins in the semifinals, defeated Northern 12-1 to clinch the title.

And then the dreams fell apart. Due to a paperwork error that was filed well before the state tournament, Peachtree City was stripped of the title and will be going nowhere. It has to be a crushing blow to the players, parents, fans, and coaches. And it is likely that no one is suffering more than the person who committed what one local official called an “obscure administrative paperwork violation.”

No matter. The season is over, the title is stripped, and the agony of defeat clings to a team that, on the field, won the state championship.

If there is to be a positive spin to the story, it is this: Sometimes in life, you do everything you know to do, you do it to the best of your ability, you do everything right and — after all that, through no fault of your own — sometimes you still face disappointment.

It is possible to go to college, maintain an excellent GPA, earn a degree from an excellent institution, perhaps even win some academic awards, and find that the condition of the economy means that jobs are not available.

One can work hard and put in long hours only to find that the promotion goes to someone else who the boss simply liked better. You can drive safely, observing all the rules of the road, and a drunk driver runs a red light and changes your life forever.

It is patently unfair that the team from Peachtree City won’t be going to the regional championships and perhaps to the Little League World Series. But, as millions of parents have told their children over the eons of humanity, “Life is not always fair.”

How will the team members react? How will they deal with the unfairness of deserving the thrill of victory but being forced to endure the agony of defeat? That depends. It depends on how their coaches and parents talk to them about the situation. It depends on the maturity of these young athletes.

The players can become disillusioned, angry, and bitter or, depending on how they are guided, can become stronger, more determined, and gain wisdom and insight.

Life will bring other disappointments, many of them much more severe than a lost championship. True champions endure. True champions battle back and overcome. True champions may not always win but they are never, ever defeated.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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